The text below comes from The
Indepedent Bear Report
1988 by the EF! Journal
also published a
sheet of practical Action Resource Information
Fear and Loathing in Grizzly Country:
1. Learn about bears before you go into
Grizzly country. The onus is upon we humans to educate
ourselves about bears. They already know all they need to about
us. The responsibility for your own ass is strictly yours.
Don't even consider laying the blame on anyone else for a mauling or
other natural accident. Forget about litigation. If you're
worried about these things, don't go.
Hayduke's Practical Guide to Staying Alive in Wilderness
2. Know your place in the world.
Go into Grizzly country with humility. It is the emotional
posture which permits reason, fosters learning and constitutes the
correct attitude for living with an animal that can eat your ass any
time it wants to.
3. Before your trip, prepare yourself
mentally and make yourself receptive. Meditate, go back in
time and seek a sacred connection. Imagine yourself on a vision
quest. Clean yourself out. Get off booze and drugs and
chemicals. Consider fasting for a day or two. Watch what
you eat and don't travel into Griz country smelling of old tuna fish;
it translates into bad karma and has negative practical consequences.
4. Once out there, be alert.
Forget about scenery and try to see from the viewpoint of the
animal. Keep your senses sweeping the treeline and pay attention
to detail; see how things interact. Most of all, sneak
around. Travel quietly and don't let yourself be seen.
These ancient instincts of the hunter are especially relevant in
today's highly regulated backcountry areas.
5. Don't corrupt a bear with human food.
Bears learn through their stomachs. Feeding is their most
important activity. They will tolerate much discomfort and even
pain if they are rewarded with something good to eat. Wild bears
are usually shy around people, but they change in a hurry if they get
into human food.
6. Take little or no supermarket food into
the wilderness. Forage off the land as much as possible;
dig roots and pick berries. Take no aromatic food. Choose
dry food over food requiring cooking. Avoid animal products;
grains and fruits are better than smoked salmon or jerky. Your
wilderness trip is not a diversion. Fuck recreation, this is the
7. Pay attention to what other animals are
saying, especially bears. The Grizzlies are talking to
you. The only species of animal which tries to get by in the
wilderness without interspecific tact or communication is the human
critter. All other animals take stock of what each other is doing
and make adjustments in their lives for the presence and behavior of
the rest of the animal kingdom. Grizzlies especially have a body
language in which the mere style of gait communicates instantly how the
bear is feeling and what the bear is up to on that particular
day. A young Brown Bear on a salmon stream can tell in a glance
if he should flee the big boar who is 150 yards away. Elk know
when Grizzlies are predatory, and at other times stand 50 feet away
watching as a bear walks through the middle of their herd to the next
berry patch. A bear that looks taciturn to us communicates in
total body language to other bears. People can learn to read some
of this behavior.
communicate with their size, posture, mouths, ears, eyes. A
Grizzly standing on its rear feet swinging its head is only trying to
see and smell better. Bears whoosh when alarmed, and this is no
threat. A bear who woofs but does not run away is a threat.
Huffing, scratching at a log, and mouth chomping are signs for you to
slowly depart. If the Grizzly pops its jaw and slobbers, leave
more quickly. If the bear's head is turned to the side, you can
still escape without getting chewed on. Grizzlies are usually
quiet; growls are uncommon but they mean what they sound like.
Once the head is lowered and the ears are flat back, you'll probably be
charged. If the eyes fix at the last moment and turn cold, you're
in the worst of shit. The icy stare is caused by the eyelids
retracting to the corner of the eyes, revealing the yellow
sclera. It only happens at the last second and is the final
signal you see before flying fur.
There are many
variations and nuances of such behavior noticeable if not
comprehensible to humans. Pay attention to them.
Guidelines for Hiking and
Camping in Griz Country
There's a lot
of bullshit out there about what to do in bear country and how to act
if you encounter a Grizzly. One agency handout will tell you not
to fornicate or menstruate in the woods, and not to run away but to
climb trees or make noise if you are charged; the next leaflet may say
exactly the opposite. Much of this conflicting advice results
from responsible agencies worrying about covering their asses legally
and assuming their clientele are hicks. But some of the confusion
is the honest product of the individuality of all bears and the
uniqueness of each situation.
General Rules for Entering
1. Don't hike like a yuppie.
Move down the trail or bushwhack like an animal. Stop and listen
every five minutes or so; more often in brushy country. You are
not the dominant species out there. Your rusty senses are better
than you think, especially your senses of smell and hearing.
2. See the Grizzly before the Grizzly sees
you. I can't overemphasize this point and it is easier to
achieve than it sounds. I prefer to walk into the wind.
This is contrary to the advice you read in government brochures.
My intent is to see bears, not to avoid them; because of this I move
into the wind slowly, stopping to listen every other minute or so
depending on the acoustics of the habitat. Bears make a lot of
noise most of the time when they're not wary of intrusion.
At times it is
wise to let a Grizzly know you're around. For instance, Grizzlies
bed in predictable places — like clumps of Krummolz in alpine areas or
willow bottoms in the Arctic — places through which you may have to
walk. At these times I circle to the windward and let my scent
blow into the bedded animal. But in general, don't disturb bears
or other animals with your human scent any more than you must.
Each disturbance takes vital energy away from the Grizzly, and in
exceptionally lean years human harassment of wildlife can make the
difference between survival and starvation. Padding the margin of
human safety out there is not important. Grizzlies and wilderness
are risky propositions — as they should be.
3. Travel quietly. There are a
few times when it is necessary to make noise, and in those rare
situations the human voice — at conversational tones — suffices.
Bear bells are obscene. They disrupt the life of virtually every
animal in Grizzly country. If you feel you need airhorns or bear
bells in the wilderness, please stay home. I talk when bears are
active on brushy trails around blind corners. Sometimes I sing
real quiet like. But never country western. Whatever you do
in Griz country, don't sing country western.
4. Get out of the way. When you
see what bears are doing, you can avoid them. If you must pass
them — say, on a ridgetop — you will have time to retreat to a safe
cliff-face (female Grizzlies with young will do the same to avoid
males) or climb a tree. This is about the only time I recommend
climbing a tree.
5. Don't try
to run or climb a tree when a Griz sees you.
The biggest single cause of Griz
maulings is people running and trying to climb trees after drawing the
attention of bears. Government handouts are bad on this
point. It's too late to climb a tree if the bear is aware of
you. If you doubt me, do a dry run tree climb and time
yourself. A Griz in Denali was clocked at 41 mph. That's
fast. They run well up or down hills. Once you're face to
face with a Grizzly Bear, only calm and dignified action combined with
luck will save you.
attention to sows with young.
They are a special case. Most Grizzly maulings are by mothers
with cubs. They account for 75% of all injuries, although
probably 95% or these injuries could have been avoided by the victims
if they had acted wisely. It doesn't seem to matter whether the
young bears are cubs, yearlings, or even two-year-olds. One might
suspect moms with cubs of the year to be more protective but that is
not at all clear. All mother Grizzlies appear equally dangerous.
The one way to
avoid a dangerous situation is to never approach a Grizzly family (see
step 2). If you do end up within a mother bear's critical
distance (the area in which she will violently defend her cubs —
sometimes as much as 100 yards, though 100 feet is more common), don't
run. Running will precipitate a charge or chase, and if you keep
running… an attack. Don't look directly at a Grizzly; that
represents a challenge and the bear may choose to resolve it with a
fight, which you will lose.
point is that getting too close to a Griz is a mistake — your mistake —
and once it happens the options are limited and will ultimately be
painful if you continue your blunders. Above all, don't
complain. You will minimize your injuries by remaining unmacho
and taking your licks quickly. Think of the scars to show off and
the stories you can tell.
7. Never camp
in a place bears feed, travel or bed. I always set up a tent
regardless of weather. I sleep in the middle of the tent.
Of course, I'm one paranoid sucker. Nonetheless, night is the
only time I expect Grizzlies to slip into that fearsome predatory
personality you read about in magazines and see in horror films.
It's rare as hell, but it has happened. It is the stuff of
Grizzly Bears and Wilderness Ethics
Crowding in on
an animal — like the Grizzly — which represents wilderness is a
paradoxical undertaking which carries a special onus — a responsibility
for which there are no longer living role models. The
relationships of ancient hunting peoples with animals were contractual,
based on mutual observations, or principles of reciprocity.
Animals were seen as earthly relatives living in spiritual
configurations, not as soulless creatures who activated no moral
designed to keep the wilderness wild is tied to having animals like
Grizzlies who nudge you in a certain direction, who demand behavior
that throws you back upon those ancient hunting agreements.
Without them we are likely to take the path of least resistance and
conduct ourselves in accordance with precepts of human ascendancy.